Do you consider yourself a disabled person? Can you communicate in American Sign Language and read lips? Read braille? Do you have the skills to propel a wheelchair with only one hand without going around in circles? Can you drive a car with your mouth and head and no hands or feet?
I recently attended a symposium where Justin Trudeau spoke as the keynote speaker. It was intended to raise awareness in the business community about a program where high school students come to your business and work and receive credit for the experience toward their diploma. On the panel was an, I think, amazing young person who told of his work experience in a cabinet making business in Oakville where he was learning the (lucrative) art of cabinetmaking. He joked about the challenges his coworkers had communicating in his language and talked about the joy and passion this experience added to his life. He told the packed ballroom all of this through a sign-language interpreter. The young man is deaf.
Wow, I thought. Initially, my days of working with disabled people came back to me and I thought, “go get ‘em, tiger.” Today, I am, among other titles, a Workplace Human Rights Consultant. So, I immediately thought, “Wow, there must have been some amazing accommodations made for this guy to be safe in a place with sharp saws and people moving around etc.”
I know a guy who is a master cabinet maker who operates his own (lucrative) business and makes custom made cabinets for clients who can afford a little better that what you get off the shelf at Home Depot or IKEA. He has tons of experience in his craft and has been around the industry for over twenty-five years. I was curious to know what he thought about having a deaf cabinet maker in his shop.
To my surprise he told me that he once worked with a deaf cabinet maker and that the guy was actually safer than the hearing workers because he had learned to pay attention in a different way than hearing people do! Well, you never know. Yeh, come to think of it, I have worked with lots of “normal” people who can see, hear, talk, walk and chew gum at the same time.
Some of those people don’t hear one damn thing I say.